January - Flu Testing and Treatment Issues
Flu tests are not as accurate as some other rapid tests. For example, rapid strep tests (take only 5 minutes to run) and are positive in over 95% cases of strep throat. However with flu testing, it is positive in anywhere from 20% to 80% of cases of the flu! It is fairly quick (back in only 15 minutes) but the test is usually negative after 4 days of flu illness.
The decision to treat is also a little complicated. The treatment is 5 days of twice-daily Tamiflu. It is best started before 48 hours into the illness....However, how is the start of the illness determined?
Although uncommon, there are possible side effects of Tamiflu, like nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headache. However, if any child is moderately-severely ill, especially if they are less than 2 yrs. old or have a chronic disease, they should be tested and treated. Complications of pneumonia and, rarely, encephalitis, can be prevented with "late" treatment of the flu. Tamiflu was approved down to 2 weeks of age a few weeks ago.
After vaccination, flu disease is very mild, or absent, since the 3 prevalent strains infecting the community were in the vaccine. Symptoms could be similar to a mild upper respiratory illness (URI) rather than bronchitis, pneumonia, high fever and fatigue.
We'll discuss specific flu, flu-like and common cold viruses in the next post.